As power demand and power generation continuously fluctuate, the power an individual customer receives at any one time could come from any number of power plants or stations in the state or in neighboring states. That’s because power flows across the power grid of interconnected transmission lines at nearly the speed of light, following the paths – or power lines – of least resistance. This means the power grid in Georgia, sometimes called the Integrated Transmission System, functions as one system without regard to ownership.
Started in 1975, participating utilities in the ITS jointly plan and operate the state’s electric transmission lines which remain individually owned, built and maintained. Through agreements among Georgia Transmission, Georgia Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, the system covers 17,500 miles of the state’s 18,500 miles of transmission lines. Three EMCs in North Georgia receive their transmission service from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and service in the Savannah area is similarly outside the ITS. The ITS saves ratepayers millions of dollars every year by eliminating duplication of facilities and facilitating competition among utilities for new customers with loads of at least 900 kilowatts. ITS members also share access to back-up equipment used in emergencies.
ITS members are obligated to own transmission assets equal to their use of the system, and joint planning ensures that any transmission facility built for the ITS has maximum benefit for all participants.
Georgia was the first state with such a system, although many states have recently formed related, but significantly different transmission-sharing alliances called regional transmission organizations.